By 90Min
March 25, 2018

Remember when England were good at football?

It probably seems like yesterday for Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks and Geoff Hurst that the Three Lions were parading around Wembley with the Jules Rimet Trophy, having squeezed past West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in the 1966 World Cup final.

The reality is, England are yet to produce a team of skill, class and work ethic that has or could come anything near the 1966 squad. The current batch certainly won't be replicating the feat this summer.

Image by Jude Summerfield

(You may also be interested in 'World Cup Countdown: 13 Weeks to Go - 'You've Won it Once, Now Go Win it Again', The 6 Myths of '66')

This was not a misfit rabble thrown together. England were a team with a clear identity and a thorough manager in Alf Ramsey, and had the guile and tenacity to see off some incredible teams on their way to July's final.

Ramsey's side came through an explosive quarter final against Argentina, in which La Albiceleste's captain Antonio Rattin was sent off, and dispatched the Eusebio-inspired Portugal in the semis, despite the legendary striker clawing a goal back in the late stages of the game.

The team's heartbeat was undoubtedly Bobby Moore.

Image by Jude Summerfield

(You may also be interested in 'World Cup Countdown: 13 Weeks to Go - East End Hero Bobby Moore, England's Greatest Ever Player'


The former West Ham centre back was an absolute colossus for England throughout the tournament, with the side only conceding three goals during the entirety of the competition, and he was ably supported by defensive colleagues George Cohen, Jack Charlton and Ray Wilson, while goalkeeper Banks remains one of England's greatest ever shot-stoppers.

In front of the back four was Manchester United legend Nobby Stiles. The defensive midfielder was tasked with protecting the defence and he was pivotal to the side's excellent performances, especially entering the latter stages of the competition.

Stiles effectively nullified Eusebio during the Portugal semi final, despite the Benfica legend eventually scoring, and was again instrumental in the final, even though West Germany provided more of a threat going forward than England had faced previously in the tournament.

Image by Jude Summerfield

(You may also be interested in 'World Cup Countdown: 13 Weeks to Go - The Story of Pickles the Dog & the Jules Rimet Trophy') 

On the flanks were Alan Ball and Martin Peters, the latter of whom scored what looked like the winner in the final before Wolfgang Weber's 89th minute leveller sent the game into extra time.

The driving force from midfield was Bobby Charlton. You need only look up his goal against Mexico in the group stages to see how much responsibility he had in England's midfield, and also how incredibly skilled he was with the ball at his feet. His shot was alright, too. 

Up front, an often forgotten part of Ramsey's ensemble was Roger Hunt. The Liverpool legend bagged three goals in the group stages, including a match-winning brace against France, but his influence waned in the knockout stages, when a certain Geoff Hurst hero stepped up.

Jimmy Greaves was meant to be a big part of the squad despite having a quieter season in front of goal, netting 16 strikes in 31 appearances for Tottenham during the 1965/66 campaign.

Image by Jude Summerfield

However, in the 2-0 group stage win against France, Greaves' leg was raked by Joseph Bonnel, leaving a permanent scar that required 14 stitches and ruled him out of the remainder of the tournament.

Hurst scored the only goal of the game in the feisty encounter with Argentina and proved his worth again in the final, netting a historic treble.

Few England teams have come close to matching their 1966 counterparts. In the 1990 World Cup in Italy, Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne and David Platt starred before the penalty shootout defeat to eventual winners West Germany broke the hearts of the nation.

The talent on display at both Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006 was unbelievable. With midfielders like Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Owen Hargreaves, coupled with the attacking flair of Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, and the steely Rio Ferdinand and John Terry at the back, the end results were shockingly below par.

Image by Jude Summerfield

That same group lacked the spirit and cohesion of the 1996 squad. Gerrard, Lampard and Ferdinand all admitted in November last year that they prioritised club over country during their playing careers, claiming they couldn't see eye to eye on international duty because they were tearing chunks out of each other on a regular basis in the Premier League.

Whether our current dabbing mob can match the achievements of 1966 remains to be seen. Sure, they beat one of worst Netherlands sides in recent years on Friday night with a largely experimental team, but can they put it all together when it really counts later this summer?

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Recent evidence suggests not, what with England's shocking performances at tournaments in 2014 and 2016, and the togetherness and team spirit of the 1966 group is something we may not see replicated for a long time.

Regardless, whether it takes another 52 years for England to win the World Cup or if they never triumph again at international level, it'll definitely be a while before we see a Three Lions team as good as their 1966 counterparts.

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